A disposable workforce trapped in Qatar - International union delegation concludes four-day visit to Qatar

On the eve of the third anniversary of Qatar winning the controversial bid to host the 2022 World Cup, an international trade union delegation to the gulf state finds no improvement in living and working conditions of migrant workers.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said international pressure is growing. Governments, human rights organisations and FIFA have all called for fundamental workers’ rights and an end to the Kafala system.
“This is an easy choice for the Qatari government; the perplexing question is why won’t they take it? Professional and poor workers alike tell the same stories; they came to Qatar with optimism and good will, only to face despair when their employer decides they are disposable and refuses to pay wages, sack them without benefits and or refuse to sign their exit permit.

“We have again offered support for change, but the Government must make a commitment to implement workers’ rights,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC.

The delegation will report back to governments in Australia, Austria, Denmark and the UK as well as the International Labour Organisation, FIFA and the UN Human Rights Rapporteur.

During the four-day visit the eleven member international delegation held worker hearings, and was shocked by the increasing numbers of women and children in detention centres and rising discontent and unrest of workers in squalid labour camps.
“This week we welcomed the escape of professional footballer Zahir Belounis from Qatar, but find that cases like Mahmoud Bouneb and his wife Malika Alouane who were similarly invited into the country only to be disposed of and left being owed benefits and not granted exit visit are numerous.

“Their desperation is multiplied when you visit the labour camps and hear the tales of terror from the poorest and most vulnerable workers forced to hit in squalor,” said Sharan Burrow.

“What we’ve seen this week can be summarized as how not to design a system for the global workforce on any basis: human and labour rights; good will and international reputation; or productivity based on loyalty and efficiency.
“International companies should be on notice about the reputation risk of doing in business in Qatar without respect for workers’ rights.

“FIFA have called for the improvements of core ILO standards and an end to the kafala system. They will report back in March 2014. We can only hope the Qatar Government will make the right choice,” said Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC estimates 4000 more workers will die before a ball is kicked in the World Cup, unless Qatar introduces reforms and meets international labour laws.

Media Contact in Doha: Gemma Swart +32 479 06 41 63 (gemma.swart@ituc-csi.org)